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My husband has died - question about probate please?

(26 Posts)
JuanPotatoTwo Thu 30-Mar-17 18:26:58

Thank you in advance for any help - feeling a bit bogged down.

My husband died on 27 February and I've just now got round to dealing with his will. I'm the sole executor, and it's all very straightfoward - everything comes to me. We had only one joint bank account, no other accounts of any sort, no insurance policies etc - so I've notified the bank and have access to all funds (or rather access to the overdraft!)

The only clause in the will that I'm not quite understanding is about the house - I'm not sure if we are tenants in common or joint tenants. We were advised to make it such that, if one of us was widowed and subsequently remarried, the other one's interest in the house would be protected for our children. However, I have just paid off the mortgage completely and am waiting for notification from the Land Registry.

Given the above, do I still need to apply for probate and a grant of administration? I'm thinking about the future sale of the property - not that I have any plans at the minute to sell. I think I'm correct in saying that apart from this possible issue of the house I don't need to apply for probate as I have access to our bank account?

Also, is it correct that applying for probate will become more expensive on 1 May?

And finally (thank you) shortly before he died we were notified that he had underpaid tax while at his last job which ended in February 2016. He had just set up a direct debit to address this. Today I've had a letter saying he's paid too little tax from April 2016 to April 2017. Due to his health he hasn't worked since Feb 2016. Am I liable for this money still? The two sums together equal about £12,000. Apart from the house, there are no assets - the joint bank account is currently overdrawn.

Thank you very much for any help, very grateful.

ArseyTussle Thu 30-Mar-17 18:30:56

Really sorry to hear about your DH,*Juan*. I'm afraid I have no legal knowledge but wanted to bump this for you. flowers

JuanPotatoTwo Thu 30-Mar-17 19:39:10

Oh thank you Arsey - that's really kind.

PetallyTyrants Thu 30-Mar-17 20:53:35

Putting a shout out for @mumblechum0

She's a MNetter who writes wills (did ours) and might be able to help.

TheSpottedZebra Thu 30-Mar-17 20:57:57

Sorry to hear about your husband.

I've literally just done the probate thing for my dad (my mum, his wife, gets everything too).
I looked in the copy of the deeds to the house, and it stated quite explicitly that they were joint tenants, not tenants in common.

TheSpottedZebra Thu 30-Mar-17 21:02:20

Sorry - posted too soon.

Have you had a chance to look at the probate docs yet? Doc PA2 tells you if you need to go through the formal probate process, and how to do it it if you do need to, but choose not to use a solicitor.

It says: (paste follows)

Is a grant always needed?
Not every estate needs a grant. A grant may not be needed if:
• the home is held in joint names and is passing by survivorship to the other joint
• there is a joint bank or building society account. In this case, the bank may only need
to see the death certificate, in order to arrange for the money to be transferred solely
to the other joint owner. However, a grant could still be needed to access assets held
in accounts not held in joint names, or insurance policies.
• the amount held in each account was small (even if held in the deceased’s sole
name). You will need to check with the organisations (banks, building societies or
insurance companies) involved to find out if they will release the assets without a
You may wish to ask anyone holding the deceased’s money (such as a bank or insurance
company) whether they will release it to you without seeing a grant. If they agree, they
may attach conditions such as asking you to sign a statutory declaration before a solicitor.
You will then be able to decide whether it is cheaper or easier to do this than to apply for a
Please note that a grant must be presented in order to sell or transfer a property held in
the deceased’s sole name or a share of a property held jointly with the deceased and one
or more other people as tenants-in-common. Tenancy-in-common is a written agreement
between two or more people who own a joint asset (usually land or buildings). If you aren’t
sure about this you may wish to consult a solicitor.
You cannot complete a sale on any property owned, or partly owned, by a deceased
person until the grant has been issued. It is therefore advisable not to put properties
owned, or partly owned by the deceased, up for sale until a grant has been issued.

bookbook Thu 30-Mar-17 21:05:40

I cannot help with the probate query Juan , but as someone who has done their own tax and accounts , a couple of bits of advice.
It is really hard to talk on the phone about this and remain business like and unemotional, but you can write . ( it takes a bit of digging to find the address, but it is there on the web ) Give them the circumstances and any information you have - quote DH's NI number , and the reference on the letter you received.
Also - tough as it seems - make sure you are getting benefits you are entitled to
look HERE

Chasingsquirrels Thu 30-Mar-17 21:15:51

Just on the tax point, M's estate would be liable for any unpaid tax.

Chasingsquirrels Thu 30-Mar-17 21:18:01

And what you describe with the house sounds like tenants in common (so you each have a share rather than jointly held) with a life interest in possession for the surviving spouse to occupy the house - but that part would be written in the will, so doesn't stack up from what you've said.
(Disclaimer on this bit as I'm not a professional in this field).

TheSpottedZebra Thu 30-Mar-17 21:18:05

It would, Chasing.

Juan have you informed HMRC of his death? Was the 2nd letter addressed to you?

NB did you use the Tell Us Once service?

JuanPotatoTwo Thu 30-Mar-17 21:53:58

Thank you all for replies.

Zebra so sorry about your Dad and thanks for pasting all that - I did read through earlier, but it's the tenants in common thing that's confusing me. I'm not clear from the wording of the will if that is in fact the situation. It seems that it's possibly only the house situation (and a possible future sale) that would mean I need to apply for probate. But perhaps now that I've paid off the mortgage that no longer applies? I did use the Tell Us Once service, and yes, the second letter was addressed to me. £12,000 worth of tax underpayment is frightening.

book thanks for the idea of writing, I hadn't thought of that. I get really choked up on the phone at the minute so that's a great solution.

TheSpottedZebra Thu 30-Mar-17 22:05:57

It must be scary, Juan.

You need to figure out about the tenants thing. My parents' wasn't mentioned in the will, explicitly. I needed to go to the deeds for that. And if I couldn't find it there, the Land Registry would have been my next port of call. Have you spotted a copy of the deeds?

It seems like if you're joint tenants, you won't need probate. But if you're tenants in common, you may.
Either way, unfortunately the HMRC debt is likely to be enforceable, so once I'd figured put the tenants and probate thing, I'd be contacting them to explain no liquid assets and trying to agree a payment plan.

I'm really sorry that you're in this situation. Is there anyone who can sit and comb through piles of paper for you?

prh47bridge Thu 30-Mar-17 23:15:28

The will is unlikely to tell you whether you and your husband were tenants in common or joint tenants. That is important. If you were joint tenants the property is now yours and you can do whatever you want with it. If you were tenants in common the property is partly yours and partly belongs to the estate. In that situation you will need a grant of probate in order to sell the house. Paying off the mortgage will not have altered that.

The fact that there was discussion about protecting the interest in the house for your children suggests that the property is held as tenants in common. Similarly if the will talks about giving you a life interest it suggests that the property is held as tenants in common.

To find out for sure you need to get a copy of the title registration from the Land Registry. That will tell you how the property is owned.

Whether the HMRC debt is enforceable depends on whether the estate is solvent, i.e. whether the estate has enough assets to pay off the debt. If the house was owned as joint tenants it sounds like the estate is insolvent so the HMRC will not be able to collect their money. However, if it was owned as tenants in common that is another matter. So that is another reason you need to find out how the property is owned.

JuanPotatoTwo Fri 31-Mar-17 00:35:01

Zebra thank you again. People have offered to help, and I know they genuinely mean it, but I hate feeling obligated. I feel bad enough asking for advice on here - sort of as if I'm taking advantage. I know people wouldn't offer if they didn't want to - it's my hang up, not theirs!

Thank you prh, that's very helpful.

KavvLar Fri 31-Mar-17 09:07:16

I just asked DH who used to work in that field and he said this :

If you don't apply for Probate now, there is no problem at all. If it turns out that you (or your children) need it to sell the house thirty years from now you/they can apply then. All fees and inheritance tax are based upon date of death. So if there is no plan to sell the house and there was nothing in his sole name (meaning no estate and no assets to sort out) there is no rush for any reason. Given what you have described there is no rush. Some people need to access accounts so have a financial need to get Probate quickly. Others prefer to keep busy so do it straight away. Do what is right for you. Part of my job was looking through old records because somebody died in 1957 and nobody felt the need to get Probate then. Average time for an estate to come in was six weeks but there is no deadline, no rules and no expectation. Whenever you apply, the various civil servants will treat you exactly the same. Apply when you are ready and not a day before. Nobody else has the right to say what you should do in this truly terrible situation, so remember that there is no rush.

How the house is owned isn't set by the Will. This would have been arranged when you bought it. Most married couples buy joint tenancy (you both own 100%) but you could have changed that later. The Will can't override what the deeds say. Easiest way to check is to ask the Land Registry or whoever did your conveyancing. If they say joint tenancy then a copy of the death certificate will make you the 100% owner and you will need to consider the impact on your children if you ever remarry. If they say tenants in common then 50% of the property is his estate and Probate will be needed (Letters of Administration are only for when somebody dies without a Will).

As for the tax due, you should be ok. Be honest with HMRC, they probably haven't caught up yet. The second sum is likely an error; if he wasn't working he can't owe tax. This may allow for some kind of rebate or reduction on what he owed due to annual tax free allowance (it depends on what he earned though). As for the first sum, only he is liable. Any debts for the deceased are taken from the estate. If the estate runs out of money the debt dies with the person. The myth that debt can be passed on to a relative stems from the lies told by banks as part of the PPI scandal. So...if the house is held as joint tenancy there is no estate and there is no money for HMRC. If it was owned as tenants in common but his half has been placed in trust for children it will be very difficult for HMRC to force a sale for the sake of a few grand. Back when I worked in Probate this would have been written off, but that was 15 years ago so I don't 100% know and you may want to get legal advice if HMRC don't want to do write the debt off.

endofthelinefinally Fri 31-Mar-17 09:13:55

I am so sorry for your loss.
I just wondered if you have sent a death certificate to all the relevant people? When my son died 6 months ago I sent certificates to HMRC, bank, student loan, credit card etc. It did buy me time to get things sorted.

endofthelinefinally Fri 31-Mar-17 09:15:39

Sorry, lots of xposts.

JuanPotatoTwo Fri 31-Mar-17 09:20:19

Good morning all.

I rang the Probate helpline this morning, who referred me to the Land Registry. The Land Registry say that I don't need to apply for probate having paid off the mortgage. I have a form to fill and need to send them a copy of Mark's death certificate. I hope I've been given the right information - would be a nightmare to try to sell somewhere down the line and discover I had needed to after all.

Going to fortify myself with a cup of tea now before writing to the Inland Revenue smile

Thanks for all your help.

JuanPotatoTwo Fri 31-Mar-17 09:23:06

Oh Kav - so sorry, cross posted. That is massively helpful - thank you to you and your dh very much.

endoftheline - I'm so sorry for the loss of your son, how awful for you and your family. Life is so cruel sometimes flowers

daisychain01 Fri 31-Mar-17 09:33:31

Hello Juan something to be aware of. As your DHs widow, you are entitled to use his Inheritance Tax allowance which will be very relevant for your DC, because they will have the IT allowance from both you and their father.

Sorry to mention this next bit, forgive me talking about it but let's just say "hypothetically" even if you were ever to remarry, you still get to keep his IT allowance, it is yours whatever the future circumstances.


KavvLar Fri 31-Mar-17 12:07:42

You're very welcome Juan. We're so sorry for your loss.

prh47bridge Fri 31-Mar-17 13:16:00

Off topic really but, although I agree with most of KavvLar's post, I don't agree that the idea relatives inherit the debt originated with PPI. I knew many people who believed debts were inherited long before PPI was invented.

EnormousTiger Fri 31-Mar-17 16:00:09

That's true and as I am sure everyone knows on the thread debts don't die with the death so if the house is held as tenants in common or the husband had cash in his name, valuables etc the debts including funeral costs, tax owed, mortgage (if any) , his own credit cards (and where relevant inheritance tax) all those debts come off his assets at death before they are distributed so in that sense the debts don't just disappear. If instead he died with no assets then indeed the debts die with him (unless joint mortgage or joint credit card or someone else was guarantor for them).

BagelGoesWalking Mon 03-Apr-17 17:40:01

What daisychain said is very important for your children. It's something that my aunt had written down for us (she was extremely organised!) so we knew when we dealt with her probate (she had no children but had been married later in life).

Also, I found the HMRC Probate Helpline very good when I had queries. flowers

CarpetBagger Tue 11-Apr-17 00:05:40

Op I assume land registry told you house was held as joint tenants? It's all so confusing, it's hideous to have to deal with all this when grieving isn't it. flowerswine

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